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Schools reopening uncertain

Ntsoaki Motaung

Plans to reopen school amid Coronavirus uncertainty remains haze as the ministry is yet to finalise safety preparations.

Education and Training Ministry’s Principal Secretary, Dr Thabiso Lebese told Newsday this week that date a for schools reopening has not yet been set because his ministry has not yet finalised hygiene measures.

Public Health Regulations 2020 under the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations halted movement and public gatherings in the country and this impacted schools which shut its doors in March.

Schools have been closed since, and teachers unions have petitioned the education ministry to stop plans of reopening schools until Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been provided for students and teachers; as well as fumigation of school premises.

Lebese told Newsday that they have already started with activities geared towards resuming of schools.

“We are still in the preparatory stage; once things are completed, an announcement will be made by the ministry on the date of reopening school,” the PS said.

On the other hand, Lesotho Association of Teacher’s (LAT) Secretary General, Letsatsi Ntsibolane said they are still at the mercy of the ministry on a way forward.  

Ntsibolane said; “We are still waiting for an answer from authorities as per our discussions and recommendations.”

Meanwhile, LAT SG told this publication two weeks ago that they’ll commence teaching when all the health protocols have been followed.

“Our standpoint point is that, schools should not open now because the virus is said to multiply faster in cold weather. Another reason for not supporting schools to open now is that the country is not ready specifically when in terms of health measures as well as a very weak health system in our hospitals,” he said.

The SG continued; “In a case where by the government insists on opening schools; we would advise that be only grade 7, JC and LGCSE with health protocols followed can restart.

“Temperature scanners, water tankers for schools without running water, fumigation of classrooms and disinfecting of compounds, soap, sanitizers should be provided, more staff to be hired to clean classrooms, workshops and offices,” he said, adding, “There shall also be no sharing of books or desks by learners, high quality masks should be provided for all learners and teachers and should be won in and outside classrooms and MOET (Ministry of Education and Training) should ensure 1.5 meters between students in class.”   

On May 5 former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane stated that schools will only open for Grade 7, Junior Certificate (JC) and Lesotho General Certificate for Secondary Education (LGCSE) during the lockdown.

Thabane’s address was followed by former Minister of Education Mokoto Hloaele who echoed the same sentiments that WHO recommendations and Public Health Regulations must be adhered to.

As for progress of other schools intending to open, the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC) indicated that it had toured New Millennium English Medium School and Maseru Private Academy in a bid to assess their readiness in complying with regulations.

“The said schools have undergone an extensive fumigation process last week meant to be proactive against COVID-19, which was followed by inspection from the Ministry of Education (MoE) authorities hence re-opening today (Monday).

“Upon arrival in these schools students were ready; a class which in normal situations accommodate up to 40 students has taken 15 students now and this is meant to ensure compliance with social distancing rule. Over and above that, all were wearing masks and this again is in line with the law. NECC has established these are efforts supported financially by parents and guardians of students in these schools,” reads the statement.  

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